‘Life & Death’ and Karma, Running Stride for Stride in Boston

By: Patrick Maguire

Book Chapter: Human-to-Human Service

Posted: 02/9/2024

I usually keep my birthday private, but this year I’m celebrating it (February 10) by inspiring donations to a Boston non-profit that is extremely important to me, Boston and beyond, and the lives of many people in our community, Stride for Stride.

You find out people’s true colors by their consistent actions over time, not just by what they say, but by what they do. I’ve known Tom O’keefe, aka @BostonTweet for close to 20 years. During that time, I’ve come to know Tom as a very humble, authentic person, generous of heart and spirit.

‘Life and Death,’ hero, and badass are often overused exaggerations. As restaurateur/author and James Beard Award winner, Gabrielle Hamilton noted in her memoir, “badass is a juvenile aspiration.” Especially as a self-imposed moniker. None of those terms are embellishment when describing the evolution of the relationship between Tom O’Keefe and Jorge Rosales. Tom provided Jorge an opportunity with Stride for Stride. And Jorge saved Tom’s life. That’s badass. And how that came to be is an amazing, awe-inspiring story.

Tom O’Keefe founded Stride for Stride after being gifted the entrance fee to participate in the vaunted Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod, MA. I’ve run Falmouth, and I know the joy and excitement.

Tom O’Keefe:

“The Falmouth Road Race was the first race I ever ran, and it changed my life. Not only did it help me become healthier, but it also reminded me that I can accomplish anything – to not quit when things get tough.

After Falmouth I was hooked on running. ​The roar of the crowd, the competition of passing runners, and the thrill of crossing the finish line made me feel like a superstar – an empowering feeling that everyone should experience. 

​I was lucky enough to be gifted an entry into that first race. Without that opportunity I might not have ever started running. Upon registering for my second race, I quickly discovered that races are expensive – really expensive – an expense that many can’t afford. And that is the core mission of Stride for Stride. 

​Stride’s goal is to give everyone an equal opportunity to run. If you want to run, but can’t afford to race, then we’ll purchase the bib for you. There’s no reason why money should prevent you from getting to the starting line, especially when crossing the finish line could change your life. 

​Our logo signifies equality. It’s simple, bold, and shows that you support running for all. Our goal is a simple concept too, but one that I firmly believe can change lives. Having a race to strive for keeps you focused and healthy, while crossing the finish line proves that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Never give up.” -Tom via Stride for Stride

After attending a Stride for Stride event at The Trackhouse – Tracksmith at 285 Newbury Street in Boston on 12/10/2022, I posted on Facebook:

Very moving, inspirational morning at The Trackhouse today listening to the stories of #love #laughter #friendship & #teamwork from the Stride for Stride family. The #community they have built and are strengthening is awesome. #Boston #Running #Gratitude #WalkingBoston

I knew I experienced and felt something very special in the making that day, but none of us could have predicted the extent of the love and life-giving, dynamic forces of humanity blossoming in that room.

Tom shared some information with Runner’s World in an article published on May 13,2023:

Tom was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) in 2020. For the last three years, O’Keefe has suffered from a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter blood as well as they should, which can lead to other health problems such as heart disease and stroke.

In May 2022, O’Keefe was informed he needed a transplant as his condition was rapidly declining. Right away, his cousin Colleen volunteered to donate her kidney since they have the same blood type. After undergoing months of extensive testing, including MRI, CT scans, X-rays, and blood tests, Colleen was rejected as a donor in March. The news was devastating to O’Keefe, but the feeling didn’t last long.

The next day, [Jorge] Rosales called O’Keefe and informed him that he and another runner on the Stride for Stride team signed up to undergo testing as his kidney donors.

“It was this amazing rollercoaster of being very sad and low to be being elated,” O’Keefe said. “I think a lot of normal people would be nervous and apprehensive, but [Jorge] is excited and it shows what an incredible, kind person he is.”

In March, Rosales began the testing process, which involved six months of appointments with physicians, social workers, and psychologists that ranged from 30 minutes to four hours at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. In October, when he received the much-anticipated phone call from the medical team informing him he was a match, Rosales couldn’t wait to tell O’Keefe.

“I felt tears coming out,” Rosales said. “It was one of the best news that I can remember in my life.”

O’Keefe admitted he was nervous to accept the call from Rosales, worried that he’d also be rejected as a donor. If Rosales wasn’t a match, O’Keefe would need to seek out another kidney donor, which can take up to eight months, or go on dialysis. When Rosales told him the good news, O’Keefe felt immediate relief.

“Kidney disease relies on the kindness of somebody else. The kindness from Jorge to save someone’s life makes it extremely emotional,” O’Keefe said. “Words are tough to describe the gratitude and love we have for Jorge and all donors that make this sacrifice.”

On February 2, 2024, a bit more than 3 weeks after the successful kidney transplant, Tom O’Keefe self-published a book about his journey over the last few years.

‘Kindness – How a Simple Act of Kindness Can Save Your Life’

About the Book : On January 10, 2024, Tom O’Keefe received a life saving kidney donation from his Stride for Stride teammate, Jorge Rosales. This book is the story of how being kind and empathetic to others gave Tom the greatest gift of his life.

#WalkingBoston is a project I launched in the spring of 2022 to walk a marathon in every Boston neighborhood, a half marathon at a time. One of primary missions of Walking Boston is to raise money for Stride for Stride. After witnessing the breadth and depth of the love and the positive, life-changing impact of Stride for Stride, I am doubling down on my fundraising commitment and just increased the #WalkingBoston GoFundMe goal to $10k. This is a grassroots effort to inspire people to ‘step up’ and help Tom and his team change people’s lives, one small donation at a time. To date, my #WalkingBoston journey has covered 177.47 miles. With bonus walks around Boston, my goal is to cover 1,000 miles total. You can follow the progress by subscribing to this blog. All are welcome to join the walks that will take a few more years to complete. Yes, a ‘marathon’, not a sprint. And I’m loving the adventure of exploring and showcasing Boston’s neighborhoods.

I communicated with Tom this week. Both he and Jorge are recovering so well that they are looking forward to running the Boston Athletic Association 5k together on April 13, 2024, just 3 months post-transplant. Incredible.

I watched a beautiful, emotional video of Jorge and Tom hugging in the hospital 4 days after the surgery. Jorge’s caption, “With my friend, Thomas O’Keefe a great human being who is now my brother. You deserve this and more Tom, you are the best.”

Also from Jorge via Runner’s World: “I hope more people will realize in the future that we can help each other,” Rosales said. “There’s no doubt that we can do good for other people without expecting anything back.”

This pic was posted on the Stride for Stride Facebook Page on October 8, 2023 with the caption below it from Tom.

“Please meet my superhero, Jorge. I met Jorge at the 2019 Cambridge Half Marathon when he ran his first race with Team Stride for Stride. At the time I didn’t know that I would soon be diagnosed with CKD and I also didn’t know that I would soon need a kidney transplant. And, little did I know that this great and kind man that I just met would save my life. For the past seven months Jorge has been going through extensive testing to see if he’s a match. Yesterday we received the call that he’s 100% compatible. Jorge is my superhero. Kidney donors are real life superheroes – they save lives.

In November, Jorge and I will run the BAA Half Marathon with Team Stride for Stride, and then in December we’ll have the transplant surgery. [postponed to 1/10/24] Once I recover, we’ll run the NYC Marathon and Boston Marathon; donor and recipient together. We want to show that kidney donors can and will continue to have a long and active life. And, I want to give hope to other CKD patients and kidney recipients that you too can run the world’s greatest marathons.

Please consider becoming a superhero to someone who needs a kidney. There are thousands of people who are waiting for a lifesaving kidney in every major US city. In Boston, start by Googling “BIDMC transplant” or “MGH transplant” to donate to someone on the list – you can be an altruistic donor to someone you don’t know. If you have any questions just message me. [Tom’s email: tom@bostontweet.com]

I would also like to thank my cousin, Colleen for all the months she spent testing to be a donor, my Stride teammates, Jess & Karen who started the process with BIDMC, and an anonymous donor who did the same.

A huge thanks to Bridget (Tom’s wife) for all the love and support you’ve given me during these times – I’m sorry for all the stress. I love you. And, thank you to my wonderful friends and teammates on Stride for Stride – you saved me. Te amo mucho. ❤️ – Tom

Final message from Tom: “Anyone with two healthy kidneys has the power to save a life through an act of kindness – it’s our superpower. Please consider becoming a kidney donor to someone you know or someone on dialysis.”

This is the ultimate ‘Human to Human Service.’ Thank you, Jorge and Tom, your families, and Stride for Stride team for your incredible inspiration. You are literally changing the world, and I am in awe of your selflessness and positive impact.

Please consider even a small, a tax-deductible donation to Stride for Stride via my #WalkingBoston Fundraiser Link. And please consider sharing the link if inspired to do so.

I hope to see many of you on the roads, trails, and paths of Boston.

Extremely Grateful-Patrick

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” -SENECA


Leave a Reply

Permalink | Posted in Human-to-Human Service | No Comments »